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Former Strictly star and Royal Marine veteran JJ Chalmers in Afghan aid plea

THE first snow of winter has fallen in the Afghan city of Kabul, but it’s far from the idea of a picture postcard scene.

This winter is one of the gravest for thousands of Afghan families who could well be facing a life or death situation.

Plummeting temperatures combined with already poor nutrition and the effects of a turbulent few months for the country will put lives at risk, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

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And for many Afghan refugees, who are now based in Scotland, there is the added worry of not only being separated from loved ones following the August airlift when US forces pulled out, but also the fear that they might not get through another winter.

Saliha holds her four-month-old baby Najeeb as he undergoes treatment at the malnutrition ward of the Indira Gandhi Childrens Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Saliha holds her four-month-old baby Najeeb as he undergoes treatment at the malnutrition ward of the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The desperate plight is one of the reasons why former Royal Marine JJ Chalmers, who sustained severe injuries in an IED blast, is backing at DEC Appeal to help raise much needed funds for aid to reach the country.

The DEC says Afghanistan is heading for catastrophe this winter with children are dying every day and a million more under the age of five are at risk of dying over the next three months.

A child being examined by Nazo, an IRC community health volunteer, as well as educating their mother about how to prevent malnutrition and other diseases.

Chalmers, 34, originally from Dunfermline, said: “I know how brutal a winter in Afghanistan can be and as a very result of my connection to the country, I was very aware that aid would be needed so when I was approached by the DEC it came at the perfect time. At the very least I was looking to donate and ultimately in the life that I have all I’ll ever try to do is control what I can and do what I can given the circumstances and platforms and tools that I have got.

“Obviously my tools are very different to what I had 10 years ago to help a country like Afghanistan, but this is what I have. Even if it is just a small donation that would be absolutely fine, but to be able to lend myself, my platform and my personal experiences of the country, of course I was going to do it.”

A pharmacist from one of the Afghan Red Crescents mobile health teams providing much-needed medicines during a community visit.

A pharmacist from one of the Afghan Red Crescent’s mobile health teams providing much-needed medicines during a community visit.

It was in Afghanistan in 2011, that his life changed forever when he was caught up in a bomb blast which killed two of his friends.

His injuries, to his face, chest and body, were horrific. Chalmers woke up in a Birmingham hospital a week after the explosion, with his arm temporarily grafted to his stomach to keep it supplied with blood. He had dozens of operations, including one in which doctors took muscle lining from his leg and used it to replace a severed tendon in his tricep. He lost two fingers, and his abdomen is severely scarred.

Food and medical aid distribution by the Afghan Red Crescent.

Food and medical aid distribution by the Afghan Red Crescent.

The TV presenter added: “When you step into that country and you go to somewhere like Helmand Province, where I was, it seems like another world. Everything is different and it is almost like stepping into a time machine in some ways, but actually when you live in the heart of a rural province like I did and you spend all your days going out on patrol to meet with and ensure the locals that you are there to help, my job meant I was speaking to locals all day, you just realise they are just like you and me and the things they want in life are no different to what we want.

“They want to be able to put food on the table and roofs over their heads, but you realise that with the breadline and existence there – there is no room for error. If you don’t get your next meal the next day, it is such a brutal country in terms of its winters and conditions that there is no safety net. The people are so vulnerable and that is why they need help and protection.”

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Chalmers added that given the mass evacuations in August where people fled the country, with hundreds seeking refuge in Scotland, there will be families that will be separated this year.

He added: “It is a human catastrophe and there is no margin for error in Afghanistan, the pandemic itself was already bad enough, the change of government added to that, the worst drought in almost 30 years and now winter has come. The first snow has fallen on Kabul.

“It is shocking to say that it is life or death, but it is and also the potential numbers we are talking about here it is into the millions – women, children, mothers and fathers – it is ordinary people that suffer as a result of this, but the good news is that the money that has already been raised has already been deployed through the charities and it is instant.”

Chalmers urged people to give what they can to the DEC Appeal, adding: “Times are hard here and we are facing our own difficulties, but for me it is that classic case of for a round of coffees it could keep a child alive for three days. If you can help, know that you are helping and making a difference immediately.”

A nurse takes care of a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit of Malalai Maternity hospital in Kabul Afghanistan.

A nurse takes care of a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit of Malalai Maternity hospital in Kabul Afghanistan.

The DEC Appeal has seen almost £10million in aid be delivered in the past 48 hours and the charity appeal will help to deliver emergency food and cash to hungry families, provide urgent nutrition to young children and mothers, support healthcare facilities to treat malnutrition and provide winter kits to help displaced families stay warm.

Funds raised by the DEC appeal will support 13 leading UK charities, including Save the Children, Islamic Relief and the British Red Cross, to provide lifesaving aid to those at risk of famine.

Saleh Saeed, the DEC’s chief executive, said it is beyond horrific, adding: ” With snow falling in Kabul and the cold about to set in to block off supply routes, aid workers say there’s an urgency to save lives.”

To find out more go to https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/afghanistan-crisis-appeal

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